If you’ve followed my other blog entries, you know that I’ve been concentrating my efforts on thinking positively and feeling good. Toward that end, I’ve had great success using recorded affirmations for setting my thinking on the right course. I’ve also used my feelings as a kind of weather gauge to make sure that my mental focus is on track. But I’ve recently discovered a very powerful tool for not only staying positive, but a tool that’s helped my writing as well: Meditation.
For many years the idea of meditating seemed utterly boring. Why would anyone waste perfectly good waking time thinking and doing nothing? I’d heard about the benefits of meditation — lower blood pressure, increased immunity, emotional balance — but there was one benefit I didn’t understand until I started to do it regularly: It’s helped me tap into my inner muse, opening up creativity to amazing new levels.
At its core, meditation is about relaxing and focused concentration. The goal is to remain completely present and in the moment.
If you think about the concept of Fear and Worry, they both amount to an individual focusing on a perceived future negative outcome. But when you practice staying mentally focused on the current time and place, that means you’re not thinking about the future, and thus not worrying or thinking negatively.
I’ve meditated off and on in the past, but until doing it consistently every day (five minutes is all that’s required to get the benefits), I missed out on the positive effect that it’s had on my thinking.
Just as cool has been the increase in my writing productivity. Practicing concentration has honed my ability to stay “on task” during my daily writing sessions, reducing the risk of getting distracted. Moreover, quieting my mind has allowed me to more effectively channel the muse. You know those great writing sessions when your writing seems like nothing more than translating some inner voice? Imagine having that all the time!
The steps to meditating couldn’t be simpler. Sit cross-legged on the floor with your back as straight as possible. (I sit in front of my reading chair so I can lean against it, thereby supporting my back.) Keep your knees as level with each other as you can. This will allow for good posture.
Put your hands, palms down, on your knees, keeping your arms loose at your sides. Now relax and close your eyes. Breathe normally.
It helps to choose a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Before you start, set a countdown timer for five minutes. All you need do is sit motionlessly for five minutes, focusing on the four parts of your breath cycle: the inhale, the pause, the exhale, the pause. Shut off all inner dialogue and keep your mind quiet and in the present time and place. Five minutes is all that you need, but I’d recommend increasing it over time to a maximum of twenty minutes. (It quickly becomes addicting!)
Sound boring? Actually, time bends in strange ways when you’re meditating. It will be over before you know it.
The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning. This is because your body is already relaxed and your mind relatively clear. Get out of bed, use the restroom, feed your pet, then go to your meditation spot and focus on your breathing. This works especially well if your daily writing session is in the morning. Meditation helps you stay on task and channel the muse in amazing ways, if you do this consistently over time. Channeling the muse is all about quieting your mind and listening, and that is what meditation is all about.
If this still sounds like torture, you might consider getting a meditation CD. I’d recommend Kelly Howell’s The Secret Universal Mind Meditation II CD. I used this when I started meditating. It has two tracks, one with positive affirmations, the other with mind-soothing music designed to put you into a light meditative state. I found tremendous benefit using this to stay positive and feel good throughout the day. If you decide to use this CD, I found it most effective to focus my full attention on the deep bass note that plays in the background.
Have any of you used meditation to enhance your writing? Please comment below and relate your experiences.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.